Your mouth performs several important functions, including biting and chewing food and allowing you to speak. The ability to perform these functions relies upon several working parts. One essential component of your mouth is your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. This joint is the spot at which your lower jaw connects to your skull. It allows for all movements of your mouth. If the joint becomes irritated (and subsequently inflamed) it can affect all of the essential functions of your mouth, and lead to severe pain and discomfort. At National Dental Williston Park, we can diagnose the cause of your TMJ pain and provide you with the treatment you need to restore the health of your mouth.
TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT DISORDER
Pain and inflammation of your temporomandibular joint (often called TMJ disorder) can interfere with the normal, everyday functions of your mouth. This can greatly interfere with your quality of life. There is no one specific cause of TMJ disorder. In fact, there are several different causes:
- Bruxism, or the grinding and clenching of your teeth. This often occurs during your sleep, when you have no control over the tightening of your jaw muscles.
- Facial trauma. This can be caused by direct impact, or by injuries such as whiplash (where your jaw becomes temporarily dislocated).
- When your teeth and jaw are misaligned.
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Sleep apnea.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
There are a few different symptoms of TMJ disorder. Some of the symptoms you may experience can feel like a completely different issue, which then causes you to seek medical treatment, rather than dental. This can lead to a wrong diagnosis and ineffective treatment. Common symptoms of TMJ disorder include:
- Severe jaw and joint pain.
- Pain, and difficulty, with simple tasks such as eating and speaking.
- Hearing/feeling clicking, popping or grinding sound or sensation when you move your jaw.
- Your jaw may lock open or shut.
- Experiencing chronic headaches and earaches.
HOW IS TMJ DISORDER DIAGNOSED?
Before we can provide you with treatment for your TMJ pain, we first need to diagnose the cause of the issue. This is done with a thorough oral exam. We examine your teeth and your jaw for alignment issues. We will also check your teeth over for signs of excessive wear and other damage. Your oral exam will also include digital images. These images will allow us to see the structures underneath your gums. We can check for issues such as bone loss. The images allow us to get a complete picture for a more accurate diagnosis, and allow us to formulate a more effective treatment plan.
WHAT TREATMENTS FOR TMJ ARE AVAILABLE?
Once we have determined the cause of your pain, we can then determine the best treatments for your needs. There are several types of treatment available:
- Prescription pain medication. For some patients, a prescription strength pain reliever is enough to alleviate pain.
- Botox injections. Botox is commonly associated with cosmetic procedures designed to eliminate fine lines and wrinkles. It can also be used to alleviate TMJ pain caused by bruxism by relaxing the muscles in the jaw. This prevents your muscles from exerting significant pressure.
- Nightguards. A nightguard is similar to a sports mouthguard in appearance. It is a custom-made device that fits over your top teeth. It provides a cushion, absorbing the impact from the forces exerted by your jaw muscles.
- Orthodontics. If your TMJ pain is caused by alignment issues, orthodontic treatment may be able to help.
- Surgery. There are a few different types of surgical procedures that can be used, but these options are reserved for when no other TMJ treatment proves successful.
If chronic jaw pain is interfering with your daily activities, it may be your TMJ. Call National Dental Williston Park today at (516) 686-9780 for more information and to schedule your appointment.